WASHINGTON (AP) — President Obama on Monday said the United States intends to formally recognize Southern Sudan as a sovereign, independent state in July.
Mr. Obama made the announcement in a statement congratulating the people of Southern Sudan for "a successful and inspiring" referendum.
Election officials said Monday that more than 98 percent of ballots in the Jan. 9 vote were for independence. That means South Sudan will become the world's newest country in July.
Mr. Obama said that, after decades of conflict, the image of millions of southern Sudanese voters deciding their own future was an inspiration to the world. He also said it's another step forward in Africa's long journey toward justice and democracy.
The United States on Monday also said it is reviewing its designation of Sudan as a sponsor of terrorism after the African nation accepted the outcome of the South Sudan independence referendum.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton commended the Sudan government for accepting the outcome.
She said in a statement that the designation will be lifted if Sudan does not support terrorism for the preceding six months and provides assurance it will not do so in future. It must also fully implement a 2005 peace agreement that ended a two-decade civil war between the north and south that killed more than 2 million people.
"We look forward to working with southern leaders as they undertake the tremendous amount of work to prepare for independence in July and ensure the creation of two viable states living alongside each other in peace," Mrs. Clinton said.
The mainly Christian south and mainly Muslim north must still negotiate citizenship rights, oil rights and border demarcation. Virtually all of southern Sudan's budget comes from oil revenue, and the north wants to maintain fuel supplies from the south.
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who has been indicted for war crimes in the western Sudan region of Darfur, on Monday backed the vote results and said he wanted to be the first to congratulate the south on its new state.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told a news conference in Washington that the government of Sudan has made clear that it wants normal relations with the United States.
He said the United States was willing to lift the terror designation if Sudan met the requirements of U.S. law.
Sudan has been on the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism since 1993.